Interview with Maxwell Wiltzer. April 30, 2015.
EFH: Maxwell, thank you so much for being with me today. I know that you are a first year in the College, originally from Canada, and working at Mount Carmel High School. Can you tell me how you originally got involved with NSP?
MW: I originally got involved with NSP when I first arrived at the University. In high school, I had a job as a tutor and I really enjoyed that and I thought it was definitely something that I wanted to get myself involved in at university. So when I was in my dorm, I met one of my fellow dorm mates who was part of NSP - who also, it so happens, worked at Mount Carmel, but I didn’t know that at the beginning. And she said, “Well, you know, if you’re into tutoring, you should go check out NSP.” She gave me some information on the organization, so I showed up the next day and I signed up.
EFH: And you’ve been working since the fall at Mount Carmel. Tell me about it.
MW: Mount Carmel is an all-boys Catholic school on the south side of Chicago, as are all of the NSP schools. For me, coming from the Canadian system, it was a very interesting experience because I think that Mount Carmel is very similar to the kind idea that Canadians get of American schooling from the movies. You know, with the locker rooms in the hallways, and everyone being really loud and pushy in the hallways, so that’s been interesting, culturally.
EFH: And so, you’re a first year in the College and you’re 19 now. How has that age difference been helpful or not helpful working with high school students?
MW: That age difference has certainly been helpful, I think, because it’s so small. I’ve been able to relate to the students more easily because I still get how high school works, or at least, how high school worked when I was in high school, and that’s basically still the same. As time goes on, and as people get older, how high school was when they went to high school changes. So right now, I’m in this period where I’m in a position of authority because I do come from a university and I’m considered a staff member at Mount Carmel, but I’m really only a year older than the seniors. The interesting part is that the students will give me a lot of the benefit of the doubt when I’m giving advice on work habits or study habits because they have a sense that I still get it and understand their experience.
EFH: I know you do a lot at Mount Carmel; can you run me through what some of that stuff is?
MW: I tutor high schoolers, so I guess that means grade 9 to 12. Besides the tutoring, I teach clarinet and various other elements of band on Wednesdays. I played clarinet for five years, so that helped, and I also had to study music theory since I was in grade 1. I have that experience, and since it’s more than what the students have there, I’m able to share my knowledge with them, so I help with that.
Then by coincidence, when I showed up at the school, they were going through a transition between volleyball coaches, and the head coach needed some extra help coaching the freshman team. I have experience with what a volleyball team should look like, so I decided to say yes, which seems to be what I do whenever anyone asks me anything at that school! I’m now the co-coach for the freshman team, and the assistant coach for the other two teams that they have, sophomore and varsity. So I basically help them during practices three times a week, and I travel with them to their games, and help coach during the games.
EFH: And my understanding is that you’ve become somewhat of an inspiration to your volleyball team. Can you tell me about that?
MW: For one game, we went to St. Ignatius College Prep School, which is like way near the Loop, for a volleyball tournament. We were down 19 to 21 and the other team would win in four points. Now, I’m going to give a little intro to the story: we did lose, so don’t get excited. It’s not like a pump-up. We didn’t end up winning.
But, when we were down, the coach of the sophomore team called a time out and gave his little speech, and then looked at me and said, “Do you have anything to say?” And I was like, “Yeah, I have things to say!” And so then I – out of nowhere - surprised myself and gave this like - it almost seemed like a public speech that I had been practicing for - but really I don’t know where it came from. I just told the players, “If you lose and you gave your fullest effort, then I’ll praise you every single day, that’ll be all I could ever ask. But if you lose and you didn’t give your fullest effort, then that’s not acceptable, because then you knew you didn’t try your hardest.”
So everyone just stared at me like, “Where’s that coming from? This is not like the calm Canadian Maxwell that we all know. What’s going on?” Then the head coach of the sophomore team excited and said, “You should have Max talk at all the games!” So that was a really interesting moment with the volleyball experience so far.
EFH: There’s no doubt that you’re one of our most committed volunteers, one of the volunteers who is always willing to go all way for Mount Carmel. What inspires you to commit so much time and so much energy?
MW: A part of it has to do with Mount Carmel, but I think the majority of it just has to do with the things that I enjoy in my life. I mentioned that I was a tutor in high school because that was something that I really enjoyed. Teaching has been something that I’ve been seriously considering as a career path at some point in my life so it seemed like the logical thing I would want to get experience in when I was at university.
EFH: Well, we’re definitely lucky to have you and Mount Carmel’s lucky to have you! Thank you so much.
Maxwell Wiltzer is a first-year in the College. He has been volunterering at Mount Carmel High School since November 2014.
Emily Fortune Hancock is the operations manager at the Neighborhood Schools Program.